updated 10:19 am EDT, Thu April 25, 2013
Feedback requested on search labeling agreement
The European Commission has opened itself up to comments from Google's competitors, concerning how the search giant should display links to rival services next to its own. The feedback request comes after Google struck a deal with the EC to end its two-year antitrust investigation into its search practices, with the agreement including a number of concessions in search results and other products.
The published proposals from Google, intended to stay in force for a five-year period in the European Economic Area, include a range of measures for its search services. Promoted links to its own services will be labeled and separated from natural web results, and will be supplemented by links to three rival specialized search services. Websites will be provided the option to opt-out from allowing Google to use all their content in specialized searches, but without affecting results in general search, as well as allowing specific content on a page to be blocked from specialized results, and for newspaper publishers to control what is displayed on Google News from their stories. Restrictions over advertising have also been dropped in the proposals.
Parties wishing to pass comment on Google's proposals have one month to do so. Industry group ICOMP has previously complained about the labeling proposals, calling the basic description of them a "non-starter" before the full proposals were published. "It is clear that mere labelling is not any kind of solution to the competition concerns that have been identified. Google should implement the same ranking policy to all websites."
Foundem, a price-comparison site based in the UK, told The Register that the labeling proposals were "a half-hearted attempt to dilute their anti-competitive effects." Foundem chief Shivaun Radd continued "Without robust guidelines that guarantee the placement, depth, prominence, and relevance of these links," the measures will not "make a dent in Google's ability to hijack the traffic and revenues of its rivals."